MLAKA — Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on Tuesday held a memorial service in Mlaka near Jasenovac, the site of Croatia’s WW2 death camp.
April 22 is the anniversary of the Jasenovac breakthrough staged by the camp’s prisoners. The day is also marked in Serbia as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
After liturgy services lead by Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral and Bishop Jovan of Lipljan and other clerical dignitaries, a commemoration was held to honor the Jasenovac victims.
“The church in Mlaka is built on the land of the sufferers where hundreds of thousands of martyrs were killed just because they were Serbs and Orthodox believers. That was the only thing they were guilty of, and the criminals thought they would wipe off the face of this earth all Serbs and Orthodox people. It can hardly be explained what drove people to commit such crimes,” Irinej said.
”This was not done by members of another religion, this was done by (Catholic) Christians and that’s what makes it terrifying. I do not want us to condemn or imprecate them, but we must not forget this,” the Serbian patriarch said, as reported by the Serb Republic (RS) public broadcaster RTRS.
Director of the Secretariat for Religions Dragan Davidović attended the ceremony as an envoy of RS President Milorad Dodik, as did President of the Serb National Council in Croatia Milorad Pupovac.
During the second world war, the village of Mlaka was the “collection center” for Jasenovac death camp for women and children from the Kozara region. Over 30 children died daily from hunger, heat, and diseases. A number of execution sites were also located in the area.
Situated some 12 kilometers from Jasenovac, Mlaka was home to around 1,500 people before the war. The entire village population, including 250 children, was taken to camps in the spring of 1942. Today, the village is home to around 40 Serb returnees.
The prison and death camps in WW2 fascist Independent State of Croatia (NDH) were run by the entity’s Ustasha regime.